Lord Vishnu the Lord of the Universe

Lord Vishnu

Lord Vishnu

(CHAKRA) Lord Vishnu, the Lord of the Universe and a part of “The Trinity” of the Hindu concept of the Highest Universal Energy that pervades the each matter that exists in this visible world. Meditation on who leads us to “Samadhi” which culminates into realisation of the Highest Primordial Energy Self. The ultimate name of who in Hinduism is “Vishnu”.

Etymology of Visnu:

The name Visnu is Rigvedic, denoting a minor deity, often invoked as a companion of Indra, in four instances (especially in RV 6.69) in a dvandva compound, Indravi??u. The name has no certain etymology; it is unattested in Iranian (but Iranian Rašnu is perhaps an indication that the name existed in Indo-Iranian and was replaced in Iranian). The most common interpretation is as vi-snu- from vi- “apart, across” and the zero grade of s?nu “summit, ridge, mountain-top”, as in “he who steps across / spreads out the mountains”, c.f. RV 1.62.5c (of Indra):

 bh?my? aprathaya indra s?nu (“Thou Indra hast spread out the earth’s high ridges”); but connection to the verbal root vi? “to be active, work, perform” has also been suggested.

The traditional explanation of the name Vi??u involves the root vi?, meaning “to settle” (cognate with Latin vicus, English -wich “village”), or also (in the Rigveda) “to enter into, to pervade”, glossing the name as “the All-Pervading One”. An early commentator on the Vedas, ‘Yaska’ in his Nirukta, defines Vishnu as vishnu vishateh “one who enters everywhere”, and yad vishito bhavati taddjwojopwjepq, “that which is free from fetters and bondages is Vishnu”.

Vishnu itself is the second name in the Vishnu Sahasranama after Vishwam; the thousand names of Vishnu. Adi Sankara in his commentary on the sahasranama states derivation from vi?, with a meaning “presence everywhere” (“As he pervades everything, vevesti, he is called Visnu“,). Adi Sankara states (regarding Vishnu Purana, 3.1.45): “The Power of the Supreme Being has entered within the universe. The root vi? means ‘enter into.’” Swami Chinmayananda, in his translation of Vishnu sahasranama further elaborates on that verse: “The root Vis means to enter. The entire world of things and beings is pervaded by Him and the Upanishad emphatically insists in its mantra ‘whatever that is there is the world of change.’ Hence, it means that He is not limited by space, time or substance. Chinmayananda states that ‘that which pervades everything is Vishnu’.”

Vaishnavism versus Shaivism: Smarta interpretations

In fact, the Shri Rudram, one of the most sacred prayers for Hindus and Shaivites in particular, describe Vishnu as an aspect of Shiva in the fifth anuvaka. Likewise, two of the names in Vishnu sahasranama that refer to Shiva are “Shiva” (names #27 and #600 in Adi Sankara’s commentary) itself, “Shambhu” (name #38), “Eesanah” (name #64), and “Rudra” (name #114). Most notably, Adi Shankara, according to one interpretation, has not interpreted these to mean that the deity Shiva and the deity Vishnu are the same. Specifically, he asserts that the deity Vishnu is Brahman itself (not just an aspect of Brahmam). Again, he notes that “only Hari (Vishnu) is eulogized by names such as Shiva“, a position consistent with interpretations of the Srivaishnavite commentator Parasara Bhattar. Parasara Bhattar had interpreted Shiva to mean a quality of Vishnu, such as “One who bestows auspiciousness.”

However, this interpretation of the name Shiva has been challenged by Swami Tapasyananda’s translation of Sankara’s commentary on the Vishnu sahasranama. He translates the 27th name, Shiva to mean:” One who is not affected by the three Gunas of Prakrti, Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas; The Kaivalya Upanishad says, “He is both Brahma and Shiva.” In the light of this statement of non-difference between Shiva and Vishnu, it is Vishnu Himself that is exalted by the praise and worship of Shiva.” Based on this commonly held Advaitan point of view which has been adopted by Smartas, Vishnu and Shiva are viewed as the one and the same God, being different aspects of preservation and dissolution respectively. As many Sanskrit words have multiple meanings it is possible that both Vishnu and Shiva share names in this instance. For example, the name Shiva itself means “auspicious”which could also apply to Vishnu. The deity of Harihara in particular is worshipped by Shaivites as a combination of both personalities.

The Hindu Trinity describes ‘Three’ different aspects of Godheads viz Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh or Shiva. But in reality they are the different aspects of the same Divine Cosmic Energy that creates, sustains and ultimately becomes the cause célèbre for the dissolution. We originate from the five basic elements called “Panchbhutas” and ultimately dissolve into the same Panchbhutas i.e. Aakash (Ether), Vayu (Air), Agni (Fire), Jal (Water) and Prithvi (Earth).  Thus complete our worldly journey of temporary existence.

The prayers sung in the glory and prayers to Lord Vishnu describing His multiple attributes are printed herewith:

“shaanta-kaaram bhujaga-shayanam padma-naabham suresham,
vishwa-dhaaram gagana-sadrisham megha-varanam shubhaangam.
lakshmi-kaantam kamala-nayanam yogi-bhi-dhyaana-agamyam,

vande vishnum bhava-bhaya-haram sarva-lokaika-naatham”.


Meaning of the Vishnu Mantra

I sing praise to Lord Vishnu.

He who has the peaceful (shaanta-)

    demeanor and visage (-kaaram).

He who sleeps and reposes (-shayanam)

    on the serpents (bhujaga-).

He who has a lotus shaped (padma-) navel (-naabham).

He who is the master and lord

    of all the gods (suresham).

I pray to the Lord Vishnu.

He who holds (-dhaaram) the

    universe (vishwaa-) in his hands.

He whose vision (-sadrasham) exceeds

    beyond all the skies (gagana-).

He whose color and visage (-varanam) is

    changeable like the clouds (megha-).

And he who is filled with goodness (shubh-)

    in every part (-aangam) of his body.

I sing praise to the Lord Vishnu.

He who is the husband (-kaantam)

    of the goddess of wealth (-lakshmi).

He whose eyes (-nayanam) are surreal

    like a lotus flower (kamala-).

And he who yogis yearn to reach (-agamyam)

    through meditation (-dhyaana).

I sing praises (vande-) to the Lord Vishnu (-vishnum).

He who removes (-haram) all our fears (-bhaya)

    due to our inborn nature (-bhava).

And he who is the master (-naatham) of the

    entire (-sarva) universe and creation (-lokaika).

This is a simplistically defined version of the above Sanskrit prayer to Lord Vishnu hereunder.

“I bow to Lord Vishnu the one Master of the Universe,
Who is ever peaceful, who reclines on the great serpent bed,
from whose navel springs the lotus of the creative power,
who is the supreme being, who supports the entire universe,
who is all-pervading as the sky, who is dark like the clouds and
has a beautiful form; the Lord of Lakshmi, the lotus-eyed one,
whom the yogis are able to perceive through meditation,
He, who is destroyer of the fear of samsar.”

This prayer is self explanatory in the sense that Lord Vishnu is itself the three in one Godhead as creator, sustainer and destroyer, which is expressed as the fear of this frightful samsar with all its pangs and pains. I shall refrain from the divisive indulgence of Vaishnavites and Shaiviites which is more a conjecture than a real meaningful discussion of any substance.  In order to protect and preserve the World, Vishnu manifested (incarnated) to the world in a variety of forms, called Avatars. According to the Bhagavad gita (4:7-8); whenever evil gains ascendance, God incarnates on earth to restore dharma, punish the evil and protect the weak and the righteous. These avatars are famous as ‘dasavatar’ or the 10 avatars of mahavishnu. These incarnations are Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, (Buddha) and Kalki. Among these nine of them have occurred in the past and the last one is supposed to take place at the end of Kali Yuga. Vishnu is worshipped as himself or as Lakshmi-Narayana along with his consort Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth. He is also worshipped as any of his avatars. Sri Salagrama is worshipped as a symbol of Vishnu in Hindu households.

Lord Vishnu is normally seen reclining on the great serpent Adi Shesha or Ananta in the Ocean of Milk which is why he is also known as Ananta Padmanabha. The lotus of the infinite creative power springs from his navel. The color of his body is that of the dark clouds.

Vishnu has four hands, each holding a Shankh or Conch shell {In Hinduism the Shankha is a sacred emblem of the Hindu preserver God Vishnu. The Shankha is still used as a trumpet in Hindu ritual, and was used as a war trumpet in the past. The Shankha is praised in Hindu scriptures as a giver of fame, longevity and prosperity, the cleanser of sin and the abode of Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and consort of Vishnu. The Shankha is displayed in Hindu art in association with Vishnu. As a symbol of water, it is associated with female fertility and serpents (N?gas). The Shankha is the state emblem of Indian state of Kerala and was national emblems of the erstwhile Indian Princely state of Travancore and Kingdom of Kochi. The Shankha is included in the list of the eight Buddhist auspicious symbols, the Ashtamangala. In Tibetan Buddhism it is known as “tung”. A powder derived from the Shankha is used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, primarily as cure for stomach ailments and for increasing beauty and strength. In the Western world in the English language, the shell of this species is known as the “divine conch” or the “sacred chank”. It may also be simply called a “chank” or conch. Shankha may also represent a divine instrument for the production of the primordial sound of creation of Universe).

The Sudarshana Chakra is a spinning, disk-like super weapon with 108 serrated edges used by Lord Vishnu. The Sudarshana Chakra is portrayed on the right rear hand of Vishnu. According to the Puranas, Sudarshana Chakra is used for the ultimate destruction of an enemy. The depiction of Vishnu with Sudarshan Chakra also means that Vishnu is the keeper-owner of the celestial bodies and heavens. It is called Su = pious, darshan = vision or viewing, which confers one the sacred power of its protection by mere viewing it; hence called Sudarshan. Chakra means a circular instrument possessing the highest infallible power. The use of Sudarshana Chakra is occasionally mentioned in the Hindu texts of Rigveda, Yajurveda and Puranas, as an ultimate weapon to eliminate the enemy of law, order and preservation. Such enemies are enumerated variously as rakshasas, asura, and vikrutatma.

Mace is indicative of power or authority looked together with the Chakra and is held in the right forehand.

The lotus is an ancient symbol in Asian culture. Hindus revere it with the gods Vishnu, Brahma and to a lesser degree Kubera, and the goddesses Lakshmi and Sarasvati. Often used as an example of divine beauty and purity, Vishnu is often described as the ‘Lotus-Eyed One’. The lotus springs from the navel of Vishnu whilst he is in Yoga Nidra. The lotus blooms uncovering the creator god Brahma in padmasana. Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The lotus flower is representative of creation and cosmic renewal and ‘primordial purity’ is also cited extensively within Puranic and Vedic literature, for example:

“One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by water.”

 —Bhagavad Gita 5.10:]

Vishnu Mantras forms the part of prayers offered to the lord. Given below are some of the other mantras of Lord Vishnu.

“Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya”

“Om Namo Narayanaya”

“Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya”

The first word, Om, represents the invocation to the Supreme. The second word, Namo, represents total self-giving, perfect surrender. The third word, Bhagavate (Bhagwan), represents the aspiration, what the manifestation must become — Divine, “The Mother Goddess” or Bhagwan. Lastly Vasudevaya means, “He Who abides in all things and in ‘Whom’ all things abide”. It is another name for Vishnu. The verse Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudeva was the verse that Sri Vyasadeva composed as his invocation to the Srimad Bhagavatam.

“Om namo narayanaya” means to prostrate to Lord Vishnu (narayanaya).

Shri Krishna states in the Gita, “gir?m asmy ekam ak?aram BG 10.25 “of vibrations or sound (gir?m) I am (asmy) the one (ekam) letter (ak?aram) i.e. Om “.

Sri VedaVyas would be the final authority of the meaning of this Vedic mantra which indeed appears as the invocation of the Bhagawat Purana. Also, Vedavyas has translated ‘Vasudevaya’ to mean the ‘son of Vasudev.’ The Vaisnavas or worshipers of Vishnu/Krishna understand the non-dual substance of Brahman, Paramatma (Supersoul), and Bhagavan. Those that only attribute impersonal qualities to ‘God’ only partially understand the Absolute Truth, i.e. recognizing ‘Brahman’ only.

The idea that ‘Om’ is ‘larger’ than Krishna/Vishnu/Bhagavan/God conception of Godhead, means one has not been introduced to the infinite character and inconceivable nature and potencies of the Bhagwan conception of Godhead which includes everything, including Brahman and ‘Om.’ As Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita (also composed by VedaVyas), “O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable Om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” Bg.7.8


The most basic mantra is Aum, which in Hinduism is known as the “pranava mantra,” the source of all mantras. The Hindu philosophy behind this is the idea of nama-rupa (name or nama=mind and rupa=body), which supposes that all things, ideas or entities in existence, within the phenomenological cosmos, have name and form of some sort. The most basic name and form is the primordial vibration of sound ‘Aum’, as it is the first manifested nama-rupa of Brahman, the unmanifest reality/unreality. Essentially, before existence and beyond existence is only One reality, Brahma, and the first manifestation of Brahma in existence is Aum. For this reason, Aum is considered to be the most fundamental and powerful mantra, and thus is prefixed and suffixed to all Hindu prayers.

A Mantra must fulfill six basic requirements according to some enlightened souls. (1) It was revealed to the Sage who achieved “Self Realisation” through it and passed it down to his disciples (2) It has a presiding deity and (3) a specific meter (measure or power) (4) It possesses a ‘Bija’ or seed investing it with a special power that is the essence of the Mantra (5) It also has dynamic divine power, or shakti (6) Lastly, there is a plug that conceals the pure consciousness hidden in the Mantra. As soon as the plug is removed by the constant prolonged repetition, the pure consciousness is revealed, and the devotee receives the vision of his/her deity.

All devotees are worshiping the same Supreme Atman. Differences lie only in the differences of the worshippers. These differences arise from the need for multiplicity in approach to Godhead. Various temperaments are attracted to a particular manifestation of the Divine. Some people are drawn by silence, others by activity; some loose themselves in nature, others in intellectual abstractions. One can approach God more easily if there is a compatible relationship with the most suitable manifestation. Harmony of thought between aspirant and chosen deity is essential. However, the goal will be reached only when one can see his chosen deity in all the deities and in all the beings.

It is a vast subject but so long as the basic features are adhered to, and there is sincerity in purpose and honesty in pursuance, the goal of “Self Realisation” is assured and the visualisation (Darshan) of owever the Goal will be reached only “Lord Vishnu” or one’s chosen deity is certain to grant the boons.

Once the deity and the appropriate mantra have been selected, and the aspirant has received initiation, s/he works with the Mantra until reaching the Enlightenment. The Mantra becomes his/her theme song, so to speak. S/He makes his/her vibrations his/her own, and to the extent that s/he can do this, s/he is drawn closer to God. Then there are various different Mantras that confer specific and different boons or qualities e.g. a Ganesha Mantra is a usual Mantra recited at the beginning of any worship or work to help remove the obstacles and achieve the results unhindered and faster. Other mantras e.g. Lakshmi for prosperity, Saraswati for knowledge and education, etc are used tp confer similar special boons.

Lastly a very interesting observation one can see in the above picture is that two arch enemies e.g. Garuda (Eagle) and Sarpa (Serpent) is seen together holding on each other. Garuda is the mount of Lord Vishnu on whom He is riding on. The serpent and Garuda are cousin brothers; mothers of both were own sisters as per Hindu mythology. Lord Vishnu had enacted a deal between the two that so long as you will be with me, both live in harmony. Hence they are seen together.

                    “Om Namo Bhagwate Vasudevaya Namah”

By Dr. O. P. Sudrania

(Dr. O. P. Sudrania is a senior retired teacher in surgery and a medico-legal counsellor; now also engaged in research of spiritual and socio-political analytical science as a part of service to humanity. He retired as Emeritus Professor in Surgery from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. )



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  1. Prashant Parikh says

    Amazing article uncle ji :)

    vishnum vande sarva lokaika nAtham!

    Thank you for painting such a wondrous picture of Vishnu bhagwan :)

  2. Vishnu putra says

    awesome article , it is one of the best article i have ever read praising the supreme lord. Thank you very much. Vishnave namah.

  3. S k rana says

    Thank you for this detailed article on god vishnuji . Your effort to write this article will benefit so many people who needs clarity and knowledge about vishnuji.

  4. vishnu putra says


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